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Finish the Work of Ada LoveLace and Charles Babbage


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

Back in 1830 Lovelace and Babbage worked on an analytical engine, mechanical computer. In theory it would have been capable of computing Bernouli numbers. The gears of the day were not precise enough and had to much friction, so the machine never worked. Your job is to complete the project in two possible ways:
  1. Discover all you can about the analytical engine and create a simulator for it. Your simulator could merely simulate it programming language, or it could be so elaborate as to provide a 3D view of the internal workings of its perfect gears whirring about from any point of view, or like being a mouse in the clockworks.
  2. Using modern high accuracy machining and materials, actually build a mechanical analytical engine.
When you are done, surely many museums would be interested in the result.

In a related project, the ancient Mayans had a mechanical calculator for doing calendar calculations. Some people have made computer simulations.

Other early computers you might like to simulate:

Eniac Simulator
Z80 emulators

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